Elsey, George

Kane, Jim


Lunghi, Hugh

Roberts, Frank



INT: That brings us on to what you felt at the time about the Russians, not now, but at the time, if you saw them as real partners in the War, how did you feel?

JK: Well, when we met them and, as I say, we did our pig Latin, finger-holding, vodka-drinking, you know, we're all buddies, they seemed to be very fine. We were happy to see them, they were happy to see us. The War was grinding down. We were still alive, we weren't getting shot at as much as we had previously, we were winning, we won the battle and now we were hand-shaking and we were being, you know, this is great. The relationship with the GI, which I happened to be one of, and the Russian soldier seemed to be remarkably well. It was great. Everybody was clapping everybody on the back and very happy to see one another. So, yes, good relationship.

INT: How long did it last? Did it last whilst you were still in Germany, when you moved back?

JK: Well, after we were relieved and went back to our headquarters, as it were, and the brass took over and the newspaper people took over and all the other people who weren't there got their names in the paper and we were still there, we did the job and we didn't make the right connection, but we were happy. And we went back for rest and recreation and we would see the Russians and we would bring them cans of gasoline and they would give us eggs or whatever other food they had, they would buy the cans of gasoline from us and the relationship was good. I mean, they needed gas, for whatever motors they had and we would swap with them. They would come into our town, we would go into their town, we were close at that particular point. But then later on, they were told not to fraternise and they just kind of dropped a wall between us and we never saw any more of them. We could not go Berlin, we were restricted to go to Berlin, although some of our guys tried to get up there, which was against the rules, but Berlin was off record and, heck, we were only what, twenty-five miles from Berlin, I guess, so they closed the door before we did, the Russians.

INT: What was the sort of time interval between the great celebration and this sort of slight cooling off?

JK: Probably a week to ten days. But after we left them, after we had had the celebration and everybody met everybody and everybody was fine, then we were pulled back and put into a rest and guarding area and we really didn't see them and they were doing their thing and we were doing ours and we were just happy to be able to sit down and go to sleep at night without having to worry about somebody, OK, it's your turn to post guard or it's your turn to do this. We had protection and it was a good time to be resting and relaxing.

INT: Well, because this is a Cold War series, it's useful to know from people who were in direct contact with the Soviets at the time if there was any feeling that the wartime euphoria wasn't going to last. Can you think back at the time if you thought, well, maybe this won't go on forever, I'm just going to talk through that aircraft, because that's maybe the value of hindsight. You think at the time, people say, well, these were the guys that the Russian people, the Russian nation wasn't recognised till the 1930s, 1933, they were allies during the War, fine, we're going to beat the Germans. Was there any feeling at the time among people you talked to that maybe these people might turn out to be not quite so friendly a few years down the line?

JK: I don't think that ever happened. I think that as far as we were concerned, G Company of the 69th Division, we got along with them fine and they got along with us fine and there was no animosity on either side and we really didn't give too much thought about what was going to happen, because we thought the War was over, the War was over later, and we won the War and we were doing our job and they were doing their job and everybody seemed to be friendly. But then, as I say, when the politicians and the lines started getting drawn, then we heard that the Russians weren't so good, that the Russians were bad and were they or weren't they? From what we saw, they were just like us, they were fine people, at that time.

INT: How much were you and fellow troops aware of the kind of sacrifices the Russians had made?

JK: No more so than what we had read in the paper or had seen on the movie screens etcetera. We always heard about the Murmansk Run, that our ships were going over and they were all getting blown up but the Russians were catching a lot more hell than we were and their country got bombed and ours didn't. So we certainly felt for them under that and the fighting they did at Stalingrad or places like that, were, you know, we've never had anything like that. So, yes, we respected them and we took our hat off to them.


INT: Can I ask you again the degree to which you and fellow GIs felt that the Russians had made a big contribution to winning the War, War in Europe at that stage.

JK: Well, the Russians had suffered directly and their cities had been destroyed and the fighting that they did at Stalingrad and the sacrifices that they did, we had no feeling for that, because we never were there, so we really respected them for that and we cheered them. And to this day, I still think that they were a great people, great people at that time. Later on, when they got tangled on with the politicians, I have to say, hey, no, I changed, but at that time, no, I respected them highly.

INT: So that was really a high point?

JK: Yes, yes.


INT: Jimmy, tell me a bit more about the celebratory dinner with the Russians and the sort of toasts that were drunk and the general atmosphere.

JK: Well, it was a small house and let's say there were thirty five people in the house, which was crowded. And a few of the Russian officers, whether they were lieutenants or generals or commissars or whatever they were, they would come in and we would all stand up and cheer for Stalin and cheer for Eisenhower and every time we cheered, we had a drink. And as I said, as an eighteen year old kid, that was pretty good vodka and the general who we met later at the Elbe River, he talked about how the press had picked on him because he was drinking too much and we all said, no, that's not true, we were so high, we couldn't get high, we were that happy that we were all alive and the War looked like it was over and we were in secured area and we were having a good time. And everybody clapped and cheered and the Russian'd come in and 'here's to... and here's to' and our lieutenant would go... We only had the one officer with us and a couple of sergeants and they did a lot of extra clapping and whistling, but we all just had a great time and had a few toasts - maybe more than a few toasts. We had a hell of a lot of toasts, but we did all right. I don't know where they got all the vodka, but we drank a lot of it. But nobody got in trouble.

INT: Thank you very much.